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World War 2 Evacuees

During World War 2 around three-and-a-half million British people, mainly children, were evacuated en masse, by train, bus and even boat, away from possible air-raids in the big cities. It was one of the biggest social upheavals the country has ever seen. Few evacuees knew where they would end up after a long and tiring journey which sometimes lasted for days. Often they would be dropped off in small ad hoc groups at stations and halts all the way along a branch railway line. Then they would be marched straight from the station to the local village hall where the inhabitants had gathered to meet them. There the evacuees stood around, like cattle at an auction, waiting to be chosen by their prospective foster-parents. And that was just the start.

Relations between evacuees and their foster-parents were often strained. Many who took the evacuees into their homes were kind and sympathetic - many were not. A large number of evacuees from slum areas were dirty, verminous and unused to a normal civilised home life; others from the "respectable" classes were appalled by the primitive conditions in the rural and mining areas to which they were sent.

Some years ago I wrote a book about my experiences as an evacuee, "Hitler's Ear and Auntie May's Stomach". The manuscript is now on microfilm in the Imperial War Museum, London, and is frequently used by schools doing projects on the evacuation. I can send anyone interested a free copy of the book as an e-mail attachment - the ZIP file EAR-WORD.ZIP (161Kb) unzips to about 60,000 words in Rich Text Format (.RTF), readable in Microsoft Word (a text-only version is available for other word-processors). The book has been praised as a good read, though parts of it might possibly be considered unsuitable for children. To get your free copy, send me an e-mail, confirming that you are aged 15 years or over.